Let me tell you, it's not easy to be a vegetarian in Paris, or in France in general! Although there are worse places in the world for those of us who don't eat meat, it's no ballpark here. Eating out in French restaurants is challenging for vegetarians like myself, with the exception of the ubiquitous salade de chèvre chaud (goat cheese salad) and on occasion a couple of other options. Beyond this, it's tough to convince French people (or those who have grown up here) that vegetarian food is tasty, diverse and exciting and that eating vegetarian can be a phenomenal gourmet experience, rather than just a plate of raw or boiled vegetables. The few vegetarian restaurants which exist here tend to be of the new-age, hippie variety...definitely not reflective of the various cuisines in the world in which vegetarian food features strongly. Not particularly good and definitely not apt to attract those who eat meat! One notable exception: Tien Hiang, an Asian vegetarian restaurant which is a paradise for all food-lovers, vegetarian or not!
Originally opened in the 11th arrondissement of Paris back in 2005, Tien Hiang is a family-owned restaurant run by Chinese Buddhists who are themselves vegetarians. Chef Hoa Van Cheng's menu is vast and truly "pan-Asian", featuring not only Chinese but also Thai, Malaysian, Vietnamese, Singaporean and Japanese dishes. Soy protein is used to make fake "chicken", "ham", "fish", "beef" and other meat products, but it's all 100% vegetarian. In that sense, Tien Hiang reminds me of New York's Asian vegetarian haven Zen Palate, which has always been one of my favorite restaurants. Like Zen Palate, Tien Hiang consistently surprises both vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. The first time that we ate there, Luis was amazed, saying that the vegetarian "meat" featured at Tien Hiang could fake out any meat-lover. And indeed, we've often gotten takeaway from there and served it at home to die-hard carnivores, who have no idea that they're eating vegetarian food! Check out the Tien Hiang spread that my friends got for my bachelorette party back in January 2010...all the girls there claimed that they could become vegetarian if it meant eating food like this!
In addition to all of this goodness, a meal at Tien Hiang means really sweet service and shockingly low prices. Considering the quality of the food and the freshness of the preparation, it's almost too good to be true for Paris! No wonder that there are two Tien Hiang locations in Paris now - the original in the 11th arrondissement close to Père Lachaise metro and the other in the 10th, near Goncourt or République metros. Both locations are pretty simple and no-frills, but you won't be complaining once you taste the food!
Tien Hiang has a large selection of appetizers, which include "chicken" spring rolls (which they call rouleaux thaï), summer rolls, scallion pancakes, dumplings (steamed, grilled or fried), radish and taro cakes, vegetable fritters, fried tofu and vegetarian maki. If you can't decide, there is also a "hot mix" which features a selection of the different appetizers, all for the bargain price of 6.50 Euros.
I almost always start my meals at Tien Hiang with the potage pekinois (Pekinese soup), which is a delicious soup made with black mushrooms, vermicelli, bamboo shoots, tofu, "ham" and coriander. The soup is spicy, sour, tangy and absolutely delicious. I could seriously eat a big bowl of this soup every day!
We're also big fans of Tien Hiang's version of som tam, or green papaya salad. Though it is a bit different from the versions we enjoyed almost every day when we visited Thailand (surely because of the lack of fish sauce), it is refreshing, light and crunchy.
As for the main courses, you will have a hard time deciding between all of the amazing options! Luis is a big fan of Tien Hiang's "bœuf" à la sauce saté ("beef" in satay sauce), which features chunks of "beef" cooked with carrots, onion, zucchini, mushrooms and bamboo shoots in a tasty sauce. He likes to accompany this with a plate of the fried noodles.
|Marmite au "poulet" caramélisé|
Of course, if you really can't choose, Tien Hiang also proposes a prix-fixe menu (menu or formule as we say here). For just 11 Euros, you can get an appetizer (Pekinese or Japanese soup, house salad or spring rolls), a main course (four to choose from), an accompaniment (plain or Cantonese rice or fried noodles) and a dessert. The dessert selection at Tien Hiang is pretty limited, featuring lychees, Chinese nougat, fried bananas (or apples or pineapple) and ice cream. We hardly come to the place for the dessert, so I never bother, though I am happy to note that there is a nice selection of drinks, including organic juices, lemonade and beer, Chinese beer (Tsingtao), sodas, water, coffee and tea. I love the coconut juice with pieces of fresh coconut...it's so refreshing!
So if you live in Paris or find yourself here hankering for a delicious Asian meal, get yourself to Tien Hiang right away! It doesn't matter if you're vegetarian or not...you will love this place and likely become a regular visitor. We just might see you there!
92, rue du Chemin Vert
Tel: 01 43 55 83 88
Métro : Père Lachaise (Lines 2 and 3), Rue St-Maur (Line 3), Voltaire (Line 9)
Open Tuesday-Sunday from 11:30am-3:00pm and from 6:30-10:30pm (closed Mondays)
14, rue Bichat
Tel: 01 42 00 08 23
Métro : Goncourt (Line 11) or République (Lines 3, 5, 8, 9 and 11)
Open Wednesday-Monday from 11:30am-3:00pm and from 6:30-10:30pm (closed Tuesdays)